When you look at yourself in a portrait or photograph that you love, what do you see? What do you feel?
I have this polaroid portrait that my friend Liz took of me…well, it’s a photo of a photo.
I’d just finished up three days at The Family Narrative (an amazing photo retreat for family photographers) and I was wandering around New Orleans with two new (and very old soul) friends, Becca and Liz. Liz had this big old polaroid — the kind that you load film into for one photo at a time — and the three of us had set off in search of a place where we could snap one black and white image of each of us. I was in a really interesting time of transition then. Two and a half years into motherhood, and more than ten years into workaholism that I couldn’t shake. I was at a turning point. I’d come to The Family Narrative looking for something — a place to belong, permission (of sorts) to call myself a photographer, to make a change in my life that might usher in a new way of being.
Something magical happened during my time in that city, surrounded by women who have since become dear friends.
I couldn’t name it at that moment, but one late night french quarter tattoo and a polaroid portrait later, I could definitely see it. It was just one snap, then that comforting sound of the old film winding and the frame printing out from the camera, and there she was. Me. But…different. Future me. Past me. The real me.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m still living into that woman I found in that frame. Wilder. Kinder. Still growing in all the ways, but 1000% happier. That portrait– more than any other thing from that time in my life – showed me a version of myself that I desperately needed to see. I needed to know she was in there, that she was possible.
Often when we think of portraits (or headshots even), we think they have to be…something. Fill in the blank: more grown-up, taller, thinner, better dressed, more serious, more candid. But what if you could just be the truest version of you?
In my work photographing woman, I think back to that polaroid often. What it did for me, what it meant for me in that time. Often my clients come to me looking for an updated headshot – and certainly, we make those photos during our time together. But what often happens is an experience – some honest conversation, some moments of stillness, some reflection into a deeper place – that creates a photograph with real weight to it. Portraits – whether they are for work or for something else – can be about far more than just capturing your likeness. Photos of you (especially when they are just for you) can mark a season’s beginning or end. They can celebrate what you’ve been through, or who you are becoming. They can be evidence – a testament that you were here and alive and full of possibility. Certainly photographing women on wedding days or along the journey of motherhood is a special thing. But being photographed purely to capture who YOU are in this moment is a celebration, not just of your womanhood, but of your humanity.
I thought it might be fun to pull together a handful of the portraits I’ve shot in the last few years of women in all different seasons. Seeing all these images together makes me want to do more of these sessions! Almost every one of these women stepped in front of my camera with a little bit of hesitation, but aren’t they all amazing? There’s so much confidence and strength in each of these women, and I’m so lucky to be a witness to it.